Quick, what comes to your mind when thinking of Frankie Albert or John Brodie? If you're a casual fan, nothing comes to your mind, because the only 49ers quarterbacks that ever mattered to you were named Joe Montana and Steve Young. Now that's somewhat understandable given that they won Super Bowls and are enshrined in Pro Football's Hall of Fame.
But if you pride yourself on knowing team history, then you know that Albert and Brodie quarterbacked the red & gold way back in the day for several years. Sure, they never did win the 'big one', and they had their share of ups and downs, but as field generals, their contributions to the franchise is longstanding and permanently etched.
Even though John Brodie never got passed the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs during the early 1970s, his efforts ignited the longstanding 49ers/Cowboys rivalry. Although Frankie Albert's career with the 49ers only lasted seven years, he helped redefine the quarterback position in the late 1940s as a dual threat passer/runner.
So along those lines, I see Alex Smith's contribution as more than just, "did he win a championship or not?" Smith's tenure in San Francisco was marked by resilience and class, a refusal to give up despite a lack of support, despite all the injuries and despite organizational incompetence.
He never threw his teammates under the bus, although some of them certainly deserved it and even when he lost the starting job under dubious circumstances, he still put the team first and helped coach his replacement. So here's to the Alex Smith era (2005-2012), because not everyone is a Joe Montana or Steve Young, but that doesn't mean he didn't give this team everything he had.